We Dare You to Play These Scores!

"QUANTUM SHOT" #124(rev)
Link - article by Avi Abrams

Play them at your own risk: Exploring the extremes of conventional music notation

It seems that no amount of automated computer scoring can replace a personal, deliciously wicked human touch. Many composers are prefering non-standard music notation, and some musicians are ambitious enough to perform these impossible pieces, for the enjoyment of increasingly dumbfounded listeners.

So, we dare you to play these scores!... although it may be hazardous to your mental health.

(right: Sylvano Bussotti's "Mobile-Stabile per Chitarre, Canto e Piano", see below)

We'll start with this piece, which is supposed to be played "friggin' fast", so you'd better get crackin' -

(image via)

Here is a Canadian composer Murray Schafer's "Divan I Shams I Tabriz" (for Orchestra, seven singers and electronic sounds) - more info:

(image via)

The following beautiful piece of music is the "Faerie's Aire And Death Waltz" (from "A Tribute To Zdenko G. Fibich") composed (or should we say, "feverishly authored"?) by John Stump... The best thing to do with this piece of music is to frame it as a poster and look at it when discouraged (feeling grateful that nobody is going to ask you to play it in a performance). To order such a print, contact FaeriesAire. Here is a low-res and blurry version:

(image courtesy Brian Higgins)

Note such performance highlights, as "add bicycle"... "begin to fall"... "gradually become agitated"... "remove cattle from stage"... "RELEASE THE PENGUINS!" and "balance your chair on two legs".

"Pluck with dignity"

The next page is not by the same composer, but it is a similarly mad score: the "String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident)":

(image courtesy Brian Higgins)

Besides many references to a mysterious "frog" that has "left the building", and mad requests like "INFLATE THE CIRCUS CLOWNS!", there are bizarre notations like:

"If you can't play this, why don't you call your mommy?"
"With Pesto... With much passionfruit..."
"There is no wrong way to play this"
"Justin, wake up!", "Damelle, did you have burrito for lunch?"
Don't forget to "leap over cellist", and make "glissando using tip of nose".

It comes with helpful advice: "if arm falls off, re-attach and play much slower", "shock therapy may be necessary to finish"... Musicians are not supposed to fly over the audience, but they are expected to "Pluck with Dignity", and additionally - "Any players from Wisonsin are free to roam among the audience members and look for Mr. Howigg"

Also, notice the fine print: "Really big notes do not exist", and the 23/4 measure (which is officially unplayable).

The final verdict on this piece? "Musically, this is not very challenging" (by Isaac Stern).

Another bizarre score: "Atushi Ojisama and Ijigen Waltz":

(image via)

"Lament of the Introspective Turnbuckle", by Andrew Fielding

Dedicated to a swimsuit model, and played by... blondes? -

(image via)

Sylvano Bussotti's "Sette Fogli: Mobile-Stabile per Chitarre, Canto e Piano" -

(image via)

Here is another fragment of Sylvano Bussotti's score: "Pour Clavier" (apres Pieces de Chair II), published in 1961. It does not seem as crazy as the previous one - perhaps even (oh, perish the thought!) ALMOST possible to play! -

(image via)

"Helicopter String Quarter" by Karl Heinz Stockhousen - this one has actually been performed!

This was a part of an opera "Wednesday from Light", and required the following:

- a string quartet,
- 4 helicopters with pilots and 4 sound technicians,
- 4 television transmitters, 4 x 3 sound transmitters,
- auditorium with 4 columns of televisions and 4 columns of loudspeakers,
- sound projectionist with mixing console.

(image credit: Stockhausen.org)

Here is a photograph of this piece being performed by a quartet of helicopters in the sky (see more here):

(images credit: Kathinka Pasveer)

Stockhausen describes how he came up with this piece: "I had a dream: I heard and saw the four string players in four helicopters flying in the air and playing. At the same time I saw people on the ground seated in an audio-visual hall, others were standing outdoors on a large public plaza. In front of them, four towers of television screens and loudspeakers had been set up: at the left, half-left, half-right, right. At each of the four positions one of the four string players could be heard and seen in close-up." Read more.

The "HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET" is dedicated to all astronauts. Click here to listen to part of the performance.

Don't Panic! Tackle it note-by-note.

Another impossible score looks like a bunch of tangled yarn in a stash of a knitter:

(image via)

In case you wondered "How to play Elise" (or please Elise):

(left image via; right image: original unknown)

A rather primitive presentation of "Stripsody" by Cathy Berberian:

(image via)

Mark Jacobsen makes collages on top of his Steinway piano, here is one of them:

(image courtesy Mark Jacobsen)

A subtle advice to improve your performance? -

(original unknown)

If your brain overheats trying to figure out how to play all that, we suggest you take a break and try to play something simpler:

(original unknown)

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.


Check out the rest of our "Unusual Music Category" ->


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Anonymous Enzo Scavone said...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't find a higher resolution for this "monumental" piece! :


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do I want to know what "Insert peanuts" means?

No, I really don't.


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